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Franchitti beats heat at Indy

Scot gets second 500 win

June 09, 2010
With the air temperature at 96 degrees and the track temperature at 131, Dario Franchitti beat the heat and held off Dan Wheldon to get his second Indianapolis 500 win on Memorial Day weekend in a race that saw cars bouncing off just about every wall on the track.

Dario Franchitti, bottom right, takes the white flag, signalling the final lap, en route to his second win at Indy. The race, on Memorial Day weekend, was the hottest on record at 96 degrees with a 136-degree track temperature. Photos by Wade Bell
"From the first lap today, it wasn't easy to drive," Franchitti said after his 200-lap run. "It was dancing around in one as much as much as I've had a car do in the rear. I couldn't fix that because it was balanced in the other corners, but it was fast."

The hot conditions may have had a lot to do with the nine cautions during the day. It took less than a lap for the first one to come out, after Davey Hamilton slid his car into the wall exiting Turn 2 right after actor Jack Nicholson waved the green flag. Franchitti grabbed the lead at the start, beating pole sitter Helio Castroneves and Will Power to Turn 1.

Franchitti led until Lap 31, when he was overtaken by Power. Six laps later, Franchitti took over again. Other drivers with early problems began making green-flag pit stops early. Franchitti made his first on Lap 37 as Penske's Ryan Briscoe took over the front position. A third yellow flag, for debris, came out three laps later, when a mirror off of rookie Bertrand Baguette's car fell and landed in the driving lane.

When green flew again and all the pit shuffling was finished, Franchitti was up front again with Castroneves second and Alex Tagliani third. Power, however, found himself going backward in a hurry, when he left the pit lane with the fuel nozzle still on the car snapping the hose. That meant a drive-through penalty, which pushed him back to 25th.

Franchitti's car continued to be the strongest on the track through the next several laps, but cautions came again on laps 65 and 73 for crashes involving John Andretti and Raphael Matos. After the Matos cleanup, Franchitti continued to stay in front of Castroneves, but by less than a second.

At the halfway point, it was Franchitti, Castroneves, Briscoe, Ed Carpenter, Tony Kanaan, Tomas Scheckter, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Power, Townsend Bell and Wheldon in the top 10.

Turn 2 continued to be a menace, this time on Lap 106, when Vitor Meira hit the wall coming out of the turn. All drivers except Briscoe and Scheckter pitted, with Scheckter being handed the lead. When the race resumed, Scheckter was in front followed by Franchitti, who had won the battle of the pit crews.

Two laps later, Franchitti put himself in front again, passing Scheckter in Turn 1. Kanaan, who had started from the last position in the 33-car field, also passed Scheckter, drawing a roar from the crowd showing its support of the Brazillian who had problems the entire two weeks of practice and qualifying.

Franchitti continued to see Kanaan in his rear-view mirror until the Brazillian pitted on Lap 143, with Marco Andretti moving up into the second position. A lap later, Franchitti also went to the pits for service, briefly handing the lead to Andretti.

"My car was a handful, but it was a fast car, though," Franchitti said. "It was a handful particularly in (Turn) 1, but it was a handful at 223's. Also, we looked at the tires, and some were better than the other cars."

Dario Franchitti, left, and Chip Ganassi share a laugh during the press conference after Franchitti won his second Indianapolis 500.
Two more crashes involved Briscoe in Turn 4 and Sebastian Saavedrea in Turn 1.

All but three cars pitted following the Saavedra incident, putting Mike Conway up front on the restart, followed by Wilson, Castroneves, Graham Rahal and Franchitti.

Conway led until Lap 178, when he was forced to come in for service, handing the lead to Wilson. Wilson, Rahal and Carpenter then went in for service, allowing Castroneves to go in front followed by Franchitti.

Castroneves gave Franchitti plenty to worry about as he built a 5.7-second lead with nine laps remaining. The Penske driver, however, still had to pit and, on Lap 192, came in, giving the lead back to Franchitti with Kanaan only 1.2 seconds behind. That lead shrank to 0.3858 of a second with five laps to go as Franchitti got into traffic. A lap later, however, Kanaan pitted, giving Wheldon second place, 3.7 seconds behind the leader.

The worst crash of the day came on the final lap when Conway and Hunter-Reay touched wheels in Turn 3. Conway's car became airborne and flew into the outside catch-fence. From there, Conway's car came down on top of Hunter-Reay's car, disintegrating in the process. Conway suffered a broken leg and back injury and is expected to be out for three months.

"I can't believe it didn't hit my head," Hunter-Reay said. "That car should have come down on my head. I don't know how it didn't."

Franchitti had no worries at that point as the race ended with the Scot gliding across the Indy finish line for the second time in his career.

"I was concerned about running out of fuel. I was concerned about Tony (Kanaan) until he pitted," Franchitti said. "It was just, 'Save fuel, get to the finish. Save fuel, get to the finish.' Dan (Wheldon) was a ways back, but he was coming. We had a good gap."

Franchitti had only 1.6 gallons of fuel left in the car after returning to victory lane.

"We were lucky we had a good enough car we could stretch out our lead there by four or five seconds because we needed those four or five seconds at the end," Ganassi said. "When we were having to save fuel, we needed them."

Wheldon finished second, only 0.1536 of a second behind.

"Second two years in a row is not good," said Wheldon, who lost to Castroneves a year ago. "I've got to break that and move up one spot next year."

"I took it upon myself to save fuel on that last stint," he said. "I was lifting through the corner of every corner at one point just to set myself up for the end. I was still able to run a relatively good pace."

The last crash caused a scoring mixup, with Alex Lloyd first being given the third spot. Marco Andretti's team filed a protest and won with Andretti given the third position with Lloyd fourth.

"I guess people decided to drive by me before the checkered," Andretti said. "It's as simple as that. We've been (on the podium) here before, but the top five is in the money. I'd be frustrated if they scored me for sixth. I wouldn't rest for that one."

"Winning two of these things is really special," Franchitti said. "I'm so lucky to be driving for Team Target and (owner) Chip Ganassi, especially after being away for a year. To be invited back is pretty cool. I expected to be retired when I was 35, so this is pretty cool."

Finishing Order

1. Dario Franchitti, 200, Running

2. Dan Wheldon, 200, Running

3. Marco Andretti, 200, Running

4. Alex Lloyd, 200, Running

5. Scott Dixon, 200, Running

6. Danica Patrick, 200, Running

7. Justin Wilson, 200, Running

8. Will Power, 200, Running

9. Helio Castroneves, 200, Running

10. Alex Tagliani, 200, Running

11. Tony Kanaan, 200, Running

12. Graham Rahal, 200, Running

13. Mario Romancini, 200, Running

14. Simona De Silvestro, 200, Running

15. Tomas Scheckter, 199, Running

16. Townsend Bell, 199, Running

17. Ed Carpenter, 199, Running

18. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 198, Crash

19. Mike Conway, 198, Crash

20. Takuma Sato, 198, Running

21. Ana Beatriz, 198, Running

22. Bertrand Baquette, 183, Running

23. Sebastian Saavedra, 159, Crash

24. Ryan Briscoe, 147, Crash

25. E.J. Viso, 139, Mechanical

26. Sarah Fisher, 125, Mechanical

27. Vitor Meira, 105, Crash

28. Hideki Mutoh, 76, Mechanical

29. Raphael Malos, 72, Crash

30. John Andretti, 62, Crash

31. Mario Moraes, 17, Crash

32. Bruno Junqueira, 7, Crash

33. Davey Hamilton, 0, Crash

Time of Race: 3:05:37.0131

Fastest Lap: 225.09, Lap 15 by Will Power

Fastest Leader Lap: 224.287, Lap 28 by Dario Franchitti

Average Speed: 161.623 mph

Lead Changes: 13 among 9 drivers

Cautions: 9 for 44 laps

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